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New technology making police safer

July 16, 2008
Crawford County is now on the cutting edge of the information highway with its new IDACS system that allows county police officers access to much-needed data — and makes their job a much safer one.

The Indiana Data and Communications System (IDACS) is a computerized law enforcement and criminal justice communications and information storage and retrieval system already used by the Indiana State Police and many counties. But Crawford County has gone one step further by initiating a new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) program, and will be hooked up to a wireless network.

Crawford County is one of the last counties in the state to connect to the IDACS system. In the past, county police officers and 911 dispatchers had to go through the State Police Post at Jasper to get information on a person or vehicle. In other words, if a officer pulled a vehicle over and suspected something wasn't quite right, the only option was to contact the dispatcher who would in turn contact the Jasper Post, submit the information available, such as license number, make of car or driver's license information, then wait until Jasper was able to run the information though its IDACS program. Now, the dispatcher will have access to the same information as the state police, without waiting.

"When you pull someone over, you can only hold them there so long," said Chief Deputy Andy Beals, of the Crawford County Sheriff's Department. "Even if you suspect something, you have to let them go if you don't have any information that would allow you to hold them. If the state police are busy working on requests from their own officers, we just have to wait. And that can be dangerous."

The system would give officers almost instant notice if there was an active warrant on a driver, or if a vehicle was stolen.

"We'll be able to use what we call a 'rolling 1028' now," Beals said. "In other words, if we are going to pull someone over, we can run the license number through the system and tell immediately if the vehicle has been used in a robbery or another crime, and give us time to get back-up before we actually pull them over and walk up to their car. We'll be able to get their criminal history, driving record, information on any protective order, and we'll be linked to the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) when we enter any information in the system. It's really a great tool for us and we're excited about having it."

The new wireless network, the first in the state, connects Crawford County to a system of stations that will insure a connection even if one or more of the stations are disabled.

"The line is much faster," Beals said, "and there's times when every second counts. Crawford County is a pilot program for the system, and we're almost ready to implement it. No other county has it. We still have to train our dispatchers, but it won't be long until we're up and running."

Each dispatcher will receive at least a week of training on the system.

"Our CAD computers are being built now," Dispatch Supervisor Beth Jones said. "We should have them in another week or so, and we'll probably begin training in about two weeks. The CAD program will be great for us. It will eliminate most of our paperwork. Everything will be handled by the computers. It will keep track of everything we do. With just a click of a mouse, it will send out tones automatically.

"If we get a call on a domestic problem, the officer who investigates will be able to add notes to the record, which will come up if there is another call to the same location later.

"All of us, Andy Beals, Sheriff Wilkerson, Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg, EMA Director Kent Barrow and myself have all worked hard on this, and it's going to be great to get everything going."

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